At the End of Patience

Raise your hand if you are ready for school to start. Are you finding yourself at the end of your patience?

I love my children and the slowness of summertime. I love the freedom to go to the pool, ride bikes, catch fireflies, and the excuse to eat more ice cream than normal. We have had a sweet summer, but as we inch closer to the start of school the inches of my patience are slowly disintegrating.

My Close Knit Kids Are Tried Of One Another

At the beginning of the summer it was so sweet to see my four children reunited. They played well, shared their toys, and encouraged one another. After two months together, I have noticed a large increase in tattling, screaming, and selfishness.

Just yesterday, a dear friend and mentor called me and when I picked up the phone there were children screaming in the background. Last night we came home from church camp and my children were screaming in the driveway.

I Am Tired

You all, I am so tired. I mean how many times can I say my coined momma phrases with a Mary Poppins attitude?

Listening is loving.

Ask a question if you want something instead of demanding it.

If someone asks us to stop we stop. 

First is not the worst when we get in the car. 

God has given your younger siblings two parents, and you as a sibling have the freedom to not be their parent. 

You are playing too rough.

No biting.

If our brother asks us to eat a piece off the cactus in his room, you don’t have to do it.

I have lost touch with my inner Mary Poppins in the recent days, found myself to be more like Maleficent, and I have wanted to give up.

God Is Not Tired

I was soberly convicted this morning about my impatience and lethargy when it comes to hanging in there with my children for these last few weeks of summer. God has never given up on me in seasons where I have been doing much worse than eating cactus. God is a pursuing God, God is an active God, and God is a patient God.

When we find ourselves tired as parents, we can find everlasting patience in Him.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,  and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 29-31).

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

As I stepped out of my feelings of weariness this morning I refocused on God and His Word. It is a high calling to show my children Jesus, and a great privilege. I am so grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning and today can be the first new day to model repentance and faith to my children.

How Can We Walk Alongside Those Who Are Tired When We Are Tired Ourselves?

First, we repent of our shortcomings and lack of patience with our children and we remind them of the truth that God is a pursuing and patient God.

Then we point our children to truth in God’s Word. I used a short devotional today from Susan Hunt’s Big Truths for Little Kids.

Next we pray. We explain to our children that the kind of love and patience we are asking for is supernatural and cannot be accomplished in human strength. We love simply because God first loved us.

And in a few short hours, we will probably do this all over again. This is perseverance and a testimony of a real an active God to our children.

Hope For Those Who Are Tired

Today, I am thankful for a pursuing God who is teaching me to depend on His patience instead of my dried-up well of human patience. This is a truth I know, but even though I know the truth, as a human, sometimes, I fail to walk in the truth.

God is redeeming His people all the time. We simply need to come to Him. I pray I can show my children more of my  life of  dependence upon a loving and patient God rather than a worn out mother operating out of a dried-up well of human patience.

God never tires. His mercies are new every morning. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Great is His faithfulness, even when He needs to remind me of the same thing over and over again.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 28-30).

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).

My heart loves control. I like to keep my schedule predictable and I prefer to be prepared in advance for anything (I have a freezer full of meals in case I happen to die).

It is difficult for me to step out of my schedule and my comfort because I fear unpredictability. This comes from a deeply woven thread in my story; because my mother passed away when I was a teenager, I try to protect myself from the pain of losing again with human effort and control. I have a distorted belief that if I can keep everything in its neat little box and stay within the five-mile radius of my suburban bubble I can protect myself and the ones I love from pain.

I have lived this way for as long as I can remember. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was only seven years old. But now as an adult woman with four children of my own, and as a woman who professes faith in a completely in-control God, I have to take my thoughts about human control and my neat little boxes captive.

I wonder. Am I limiting my faith by staying inside of my predicability and control? How can I grow in my connection with God and my trust in His provision if deep down I am limited by fear of the unknown?

This deeply woven gospel issue is difficult for me to unravel. It takes baby steps and small ounces of faith—little by little and day by day.

A month ago I went on a church trip with my husband to Croatia. In the months of planning and preparation to leave my four children there were many moments I was arrested by the fear of the unknown. I wrote a twenty-four page guide for my children and sister-in-laws to reference while I was away. In the months leading up to the trip, I experienced several sleepless nights worrying over what may happen if I die, how my children could drown while I wasn’t right there watching them, and how my house could catch on fire. One particular afternoon I spent several hours sobbing and writing letters to each of my children upon my death.

From January until mid-June all I did was dream up all of the horrible, most terrible things that could happen when I stepped out of my suburban bubble and predictable schedule. From January to mid-June I was a slave to my fear and anxiety, instead of a faithful, trusting follower of the Good God I claim I trust in.

In preparation for the trip, I went one step at a time, and God provided for me with each and every step. I asked for help with my children and two family members committed to helping me right away. I wrote letters for financial support, and though the body of Christ, ninety percent of the money for my trip was raised.

On the day of the trip, getting in the car was the hardest part. Then getting on a plane, and another, and another. But one step at a time I went, trying to embrace faith over fear, and fighting to remember that I do not control the world.

It is Satan who wants me to be a slave to my fear and cling to my neat little boxes and my five-mile suburban radius. It is Satan who wants me to be tangled up in the wounds of my past. But God wants me to thrive as I learn to leave fear and control and trust Him. God wants me to have faith that when I step out into the unknown, He will hold me up because He cares for me. And He will hold up my children too.

It is the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed that made the mountain of fear in my heart move and slowly unravel away.

And the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed yielded greater blessing than I could have ever asked for or think up. I made dear friends in Mačkovec, Croatia. Friends who I would have never met tangled up in slavery to my fear. My children thrived while I was away and were cared for by so many friends, family, and church family.

And thankfully, no one died, drowned, or caught on fire.

On the other side of my trip to Croatia, I have a little more faith, and a little less fear of the unknown. I am thankful for the faith of a mustard seed that can move a mountain fear within my heart. And I am thankful for a God who wants to unravel me from my neat little boxes and predictable schedule. He really holds up the world. Even when I fail to trust Him.

 

Wounds, Scars, and Renewal

Ten days from now will mark the twentieth year of my mother’s passing. Now, I am thirty-four with four children, then I was fourteen and the oldest of three children. There are a million things I desire to write in this post, as I know many of you read and follow my jagged grief journey, but the words which may follow are quite unplanned, and a culmination of many burdens within my own heart. 

There are many things for all of our past which can wound and scar a person. Wounded-ness, the evidence of unhealed hurts. Scarring, the evidence of the healing of those wounds.

I have a terrible and jagged, c-section scar. This scar from my first Caesarean surgery was reopened three other times. Each painful reopening of this scar brought forth both a new season and new life.

However, with each reopening, the scar which was life-giving was also the reopening of many stories of pain, but in a weird scientific way, healing.

Wounds heal. The most delicate and intimate wounds are made to heal and the healing of wounds leads to scarring. The scarring makes us who we are. The scarring a permanent marking of  life given and shared, even in the wounded-ness, we are made to heal.

When I think of scars, my immediate reaction is to think of knobbly, unsightly things. Today I went to the doctor with a raised mole, and it was immediately frozen away. Today, in our culture it is quite uncommon to bear knobbly, unsightly things above the social media filters of who we desire to be.

In our current culture, it is quite knobbly to say, I am bumpy, unfiltered, and broken. I have been wounded, and I have been scarred. The wounded wonder, am I loved even when my flesh is knobbly?

As a knobbly person, I have chosen to hide my knobbly places underneath the false mask of “I am okay” for far too long. A culture of anti-embracing scarred-ness has suffocated me.

Twenty-years after my mother’s passing, I am learning the simple truth that it is our scars that prove we have lived life. Our scars are beautiful because our scars are life giving. Scars are knobbly and imperfect, but so is life.

Scars are the evidence of renewal. You cannot change your wounds, but you can embrace the journey, see the scars as proof of healing, and embrace the knobbliness as evidence of healing.

I have spent two decades feeling deeply wounded around this time of year. Looking back to the open wound inflicted twenty years ago when my mother passed away, instead of recognizing my knobbly places as proof of healing.

Our wounds are not scientifically meant to stay open, our wounds are meant to heal. The unsightly scars are the things which make all of us less filtered, and more human.

This year, for me, renewal has meant thinking of my mother at her happiest, and finding that place. Wondering, if she were here, what would I be doing. This year, my family and I are going to the beach in memory of my mom and her smile. My mom was a happy person, she fought with a smile, and was happiest with her family and at the beach. Renewal for me entails embracing scars and creating happier, more emotionally-whole patterns.

I will be sad at the beach, remembering my happy mother. But in some full circle way, this will help me feel whole.

My kindergartener prayed tonight, “God thank you for giving us emotions and allowing us to be happy and sad.” Such a sweet reminder that life is happy, but it is also sad. Life gives wounds, and creates scars of healing. We are all a knobbly mixture of happiness and sadness.

In the bumps and bruises, wounds and scars, God is making all things new. God makes all things new through the wounds, bruises, and scars of Jesus. This week as I look towards the Resurrection and the Easter weekend, I am thankful that the God of the Bible is the One who can identify with those who are wounded and scarred.

By His wounds we are healed. Jesus identifies with the broken.

In my own scarred, knobbly renewal I’d dare to think my mom would rejoice in my knobbly sad and happy scarred-ness. Twenty years feels like a crazy amount of time, but each day I am more hopeful. Each day I believe more and more, that God is making all things new, through wounds and scars.

The Waiting Spaces

Unbelief in the Waiting Spaces

I battle against moments of unbelief when I find myself in the waiting rooms of daily life. These waiting rooms are the seasons I find myself waiting in the transitional and unknown places.

Will I find reconciliation in a relationship with a long time friend over a recent disagreement?

Will I get the position I have been waiting for?

Will my scans come back clean?

These are only a few of the waiting spaces I have found myself in over the past five years and these waiting spaces have been challenging for me to cling to faith and belief, even when I cannot see.

All too often I have noticed I am not the only one who lives this way. In our humanity, we desire for God to answer prayers like He is a tiny man inside a vending machine. An impatient heart may desire control and immediate answers instead of resting in God’s sovereign control and supernatural time-table. In unbelief and distorted desires, the human heart is prone to wander over to the instant gratification of faith in a microwave, instead of the slow unraveling of learning patience and trust in a God who is good even when we cannot see.

Life’s Temporary Waiting Spaces and Eyes that See

Not all waiting spaces are bothersome. In a restaurant, I am personally more irritated by those who ask the hostess every five minutes if their table is ready than I am irritated by my own forty-to-fifty minute wait. This comes from my short time and experience as a hostess. I know hostesses want to seat people in a restaurant as fast as they can.

When seated at my table, I am usually not bothered to wait for drinks, food, or a server. I identify with the process of waiting in a restaurant because I have experienced the life of a server too. In the life of a server, the tables seem to turn all at once and the needs of the customers sometimes seem outnumber the minutes in the hour.

I don’t mind waiting because I know behind the scenes there is so much more going on that I cannot see. In a restaurant there are servers, line cooks, expos, dishwashers, food runners, and every server has ongoing side work throughout the night. There are important front of the house needs, but what goes on behind the scenes, the things which our eyes can’t see, are all significant parts of the food to customer process.

While waiting at  my doctor, I think of this waiting room just the same way I wait on my glass of water in a restaurant. The waiting space is a piece of the puzzle in the bigger picture of going to the doctor. I value the time and attention my doctor gives to my own family, I can visualize what is going on behind the scenes while I am waiting for the doctor. I know I am waiting because my doctor is giving that same care to someone else in the next exam room, and when my turn comes I will receive the excellent, personal care I received just like the last time I was in for a check up.

I seem to be able to remember in life’s temporary waiting spaces.

Heart Issues in the Difficult Waiting Spaces 

When I first began reading the Bible in my early twenties, my husband was in seminary. As we traveled back and forth between seminary and home, we would read the Old Testament out loud to one another. I remember reading Old Testament passages like Exodus 16, when the Israelites have been brought out of slavery in Egypt, but still they are complaining about God’s provision for them in the desert. The Israelites all too easily forgot that God had delivered them from slavery, and He was bringing them to the Promised Land.

I used to ask Michael, “Why do the Israelites whine all the time? Why do they so easily forget?”

Well, now I know. Because I too am just like the Israelites in my own personal waiting spaces. I fail to wait patiently on the Lord and His timing.

In the waiting room of my own life, when I fail to see God working behind the scenes, I find myself checking in at the counter too often asking impatiently, Lord, when will my wait be over? When it comes to daily life and answers I need right now, I’m a constant bell-ringer, toe-tapper, and heavy-sigh huffer.

This comes from a desire to control. Control creeps up in my heart all too often. I toe-tap in my prayer life instead of sitting in the waiting spaces of life with hopefulness. With belief in the assurance that God is working behind the scenes, and trust that He is giving me the specific care my heart needs even while I wait.

Truth for the Fight to Believe in the Waiting Spaces

Slowly I am learning to fight to believe in the waiting spaces. It is in the waiting spaces that God is working in my heart in ways I cannot see. He is teaching me to lean into His Promises and remember that He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. It is in the waiting space where I see my distorted desire to control.

A few pages later in the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy is a call for the Israelites to remember. Remember what God has done before, and remember what God has Promised He will do in the future. When we feel impatient in the waiting spaces we need to soak our hearts in gospel truth. We need to remember that God is always working even when we cannot see.

Verses to Memorize and Use as a Balm for your Heart in the Waiting Spaces:

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He makes everything beautiful in its time.

Psalm 27:14 When I wait you strengthen my heart.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, I am with you.

Psalm 121:4 He who watches over Israel will never sleep or slumber.

Lamentations 3:22 The Lord’s lovingkindness will never cease, His compassions never fail, they are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Philippians 1:6 He who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion.

Colossians 1:27 He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

2 Corinthians 4:18 We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Behold, He is making all things new. Even when we cannot see in the waiting spaces.

Unraveling Cynicism

Cynicism is Rooted in Woundedness

I am barely a teenager sitting in the front bedroom of my childhood home, a two-story brick house with green shutters. As I look out the window I am scared, depressed, uncertain. From a very young age I learn this world is not the way it is supposed to be. In 1991 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time I reach eighth grade in the fall of 1997, my mother is getting sicker instead of getting better.

At thirteen I want to be numb to everything around me. To feel the emotional pain raging within me and interact with the sad reality surrounding me is too much  for my barely teenage brain to bear. I learn how to disengage. I learn how to be numb to life’s difficulties.  My numbness pushes true friends away. In crowds I find myself surrounded by many people but somehow I always feel alone.

This disengagement and numbness eventually buds into cynicism and as an adult, I grow into a woman who engages the world as a full-blown cynic. Cynicism is one of the distorted ways in which I view the world.

“Cynicism creates a numbness toward life. Cynicism begins with a wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaging, loving, and hoping…To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of being ‘in the know,’ cynicism actually destroys intimacy. It leads to bitterness that can deaden and even destroy the spirit.” Paul Miller, A Praying Life

The Tension Between Cynicism and The Gospel

My cynicism became a problem when I became a Christian at the age of twenty-one.

My new life in Christ and my old life built upon the foundation of cynicism in juxtaposition with one another. I find myself unable to fully engage with others within the church because of how deeply I am tangled up in my own cynicism.

Cynicism becomes deeply rooted and takes hold of how people grow to engage the world.

Cynicism sees the pretty girl walk into the room and assumes she is stupid or worse, assumes you don’t like her. The cynic sees the Christian who is always smiling as a person who lacks emotional depth. Tangled up in cynicism, we can’t see the greater redemptive story in ourselves, others, and the whole world because cynicism distorts hope.

Deeply rooted cynicism leads down the path of critiquing, over-thinking, never hoping and never fully trusting. A cynic may look friendly on the outside while the inner self of a cynic questions motives of others.

I like this definition of cynicism I found in an article on Desiring God:

Cynicism is the emotional disposition of distrust or rejection toward a particular idea, person, or group as a result of negative experiences (either directly or indirectly).

New life in Christ brings tension between the old and the new self. There is tension between the desires of the way you have always lived, and the way you are called to live in the gospel of Christ.

The unraveling of the old pattern of cynicism is necessary in the Christian life so Christians can live in the community we have been called to live with one another, the community founded on the gospel, where Jesus is the cornerstone. The community of the Church. This is a community call to love one another with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Robert Robinson is an 18th century pastor, hymnodist, and writer of the hymn: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. My favorite part of this hymn illustrates my above point. This hymn was written in the 1700s and describes the same tension I feel in my daily life between my cynicism and call to love others fully the gospel in 2018, three hundred years later.

O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let they goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.

We live in the now and the not yet. We have foretasted heaven in our own redemption, but the world is not yet fully redeemed. In the now and the not yet as those who claim the name of Jesus, we wait and we dance with our prone to wandering hearts.

How to Unravel Deeply Rooted Cynicism 

First, self-awareness is the most basic step to unraveling cynicism. A person cannot be unraveled from cynicism if the person is are unaware he or she has the plaguing problem of cynicism. Step one is self-awareness of the problem, the gospel, and our wandering hearts

Second, embrace the process. The healing from cynicism does not happen overnight. We live in a microwave world. Books are delivered to our fingertips, groceries are amazon primed in two hours. Sanctification does not happen in a microwave. It is the slow unraveling of the old self and faith to embrace the new self.

Third, the gospel invites us into freedom from our old unhealthy patterns. In the gospel, we can be free from the heavy yoke of slavery to cynicism. You have to see the heavy yoke of cynicism in the way you see the world and desire to be free from that heavy burden upon your shoulders.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5: 1,13)

Fourth, recognize cynical patterns, memorize scriptures to replace those cynical patterns, and ask God to change you from the inside out.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It is critical to begin to recognize the cynical bend in your thought life toward cynicism. It is also critical to be transformed in your mind to the patterns of cynicism. Nothing spiritual is happening without the step of being renewed from the inside out, through the renewing of your mind. This renewal happens by knowing the Word of God and asking you knowledge of the Word to change the way you live. Without the middle step of renewal and transformation, our battles against cynicism will only be surface deep.

When I look back and see freedom from the yoke of slavery of cynicism, I see hope for the teenager standing in her bedroom. I see a life much bigger than she could have ever dreamed up for herself. A life where she eventually learned to show up, be vulnerable, and allowed herself to be seen. A life where cynicism didn’t distort her view of others, but love rooted in the gospel helped her see others, and even herself with the eyes of Jesus.

“Courage starts with showing up and allowing ourselves to be seen.” Brene Brown